Objectives: Comparisons of cancer survival in Canadian and US metropolitan areas have shown consistent Canadian advantages. This study tests a health insurance hypothesis by comparing cancer survival in Toronto, Ontario, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Methods: Ontario and Hawaii registries provided a total of 9190 and 2895 cancer cases (breast and prostate, 1986-1990, followed until 1996). Socioeconomic data for each person's residence at the time of diagnosis were taken from population censuses.
Results: Socioeconomic status and cancer survival were directly associated in the US cohort, but not in the Canadian cohort. Compared with similar patients in Honolulu, residents of low-income areas in Toronto experienced 5-year survival advantages for breast and prostate cancer. In support of the health insurance hypothesis, between-country differences were smaller than those observed with other state samples and the Canadian advantage was larger among younger women.
Conclusions: Hawaii seems to provide better cancer care than many other states, but patients in Toronto still enjoy a significant survival advantage. Although Hawaii's employer-mandated health insurance coverage seems an effective step toward providing equitable health care, even better care could be expected with a universally accessible, single-payer system.